A crucial consideration in the prosecution of a DWI case is a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) level during an arrest. Breath and blood tests are utilized to measure BAC and ultimately determine if a person was impaired while driving. Some tests can be refused, while others warrant legal repercussions if refused.
For the purposes of this article, the Lento Law Firm will provide you with some insight about breath and blood tests and how they will be conducted before and after an arrest.
The Portable Breath Test
Most police departments in New Jersey use what's known as a portable breath test (PBT). Depending on the model of PBT used by police, the device can either report an actual breath test reading in numerical format, like 0.08%, or it may show a positive (+) or negative (-) symbol to signify if there is alcohol present on the breath.
If an officer is following protocol, portable breath tests are supposed to be administered after other roadside DWI exercises such as field sobriety tests as a way to confirm an officer's suspicions of a driver's impairment. This is because if the PBT was given earlier and confirmed the presence of alcohol, the officer wouldn't be able to objectively look for signs of impairment after the fact. The theory is that the results of every other exercise given after the reading would be influenced by the positive result on the PBT. Therefore, PBTs are intended to be devices that confirm suspicion after a motorist has undergone other subjective testing.
If the PBT shows a reading in numerical format and it shows a breath result under 0.08% and the officer believes the individual is still impaired, an officer has the discretion to arrest the driver. This arrest may be based on an officer's perception that, even though the driver is not over the legal limit of 0.08%, the individual doesn't have the capability to operate the vehicle because they're still impaired.
We'll get into the implied consent law a little later, but it's essentially a law that penalizes people for refusing breath and blood tests. The PBT is excluded from this law. Only evidential breath testing on an approved machine, such as the Alcotest, is the only approved breath test that must be taken upon request.
Once you're taken to the station, you'll have to take an evidential breath test, known as “the Alcotest.” The Alcotest is vastly different than a portable breath test. You may be confused as to why you have been required to take a breath test on site and another one after an arrest. For one, the results of this evidential breath test are admissible in court. This is because the results of an Alcotest are also more accurate than a PBT. Refusing to submit a breath sample for the Alcotest is a violation of the implied consent law.
If you aren't impaired by alcohol, but by drugs or another substance and the Alcotest revealed a finding of 0.00%, and the results of a field sobriety test showed a high level of impairment, you may be taken to a hospital to obtain a blood test for sampling.
A blood test consists of taking a sample of your blood to measure the quantity of chemical substances in it. An officer isn't qualified to administer this test, only a licensed phlebotomist, nurse, or doctor can. Blood tests are the most reliable method of testing because they assess the exact amount of chemical content in one's blood at the time of the draw when everything is done properly.
Under New Jersey law, one stipulation of getting your license is an implied agreement that you will take certain breath and blood tests if suspected of driving under the influence. In fact, it's illegal to refuse these tests once arrested.
When a person is arrested for a DWI, he or she is driven back to the police station and processed. Testing is a big part of the process. The state provides a lot of incentive to cooperate with officers and comply with testing, even though the results of these tests could be detrimental to your case. Refusing breath and blood tests for analysis warrants legal consequences, including a seven-month license suspension for first-time offenders, a two-year license suspension for second-time offenders, and a ten-year license suspension for third and subsequent offenders. Also, depending on the nature of the offense, hundreds of dollars in fines may be imposed.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
A bad finding on a breath and blood test can be detrimental to your case. But if it's proven that your arrest was unlawful or an officer's actions strayed from protocol, there's a good chance your charges could be dismissed.
With so much on the line, the best thing you can do is contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The sooner a legal representative can get on your case, the more time they have to build a solid defense. In New Jersey, a DWI is an offense that requires skilled and aggressive representation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired DWI charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.